When Chicken Soup Isn't Enough: Stories of Nurses Standing Up for Themselves, Their Patients, and Their Profession

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The reassuring bromides of "chicken soup for the soul" provide little solace for nurses—and the people they serve—in real-life hospitals, nursing homes, schools of nursing, and other settings. In the minefield of modern health care, there are myriad obstacles to quality patient care—including work overload, inadequate funds for nursing education and research, and poor communication between and within the professions, to name only a few. The seventy RNs whose stories are collected here by the award-winning journalist Suzanne Gordon know that effective advocacy isn't easy. It takes nurses willing to stand up for themselves, their coworkers, their patients, and the public.

When Chicken Soup Isn't Enough brings together compelling personal narratives from a wide range of nurses from across the globe. The assembled profiles in professional courage provide new insight into the daily challenges that RNs face in North America and abroad—and how they overcome them with skill, ingenuity, persistence, and individual and collective advocacy at work and in the community. In this collection, we meet RNs working at the bedside, providing home care, managing hospital departments, teaching and doing research, lobbying for quality patient care, and campaigning for health care reform.

Their stories are funny, sad, deeply moving, inspiring, and always revealing of the different ways that nurses make their voices heard in the service of their profession. The risks and rewards, joys and sorrows, of nursing have rarely been captured in such vivid first-person accounts. Gordon and the authors of the essays contained in this book have much to say about the strengths and shortcomings of health care today—and the role that nurses play as irreplaceable agents of change.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"These stories show how nurses have stepped up their care to include advocating for patients and offering solutions to some of these problems while continuing to perform their duties with expertise and compassion. Increasingly, nurses are self-advocates who participate actively in determining the parameters of good patient care. . . . Each chapter is complete unto itself and a good read; taken as a whole, the chapters clearly suggest that nurses are defining and implementing important new roles for themselves in the modern health care delivery system—a development that bodes well for patients, the system, and nurses."—Choice, January 2011

"When Chicken Soup Isn't Enough is an excellent collection capturing the real work done by nurses. It demonstrates that the triumphs and struggles of nurses are universal."—Kathleen Burke, RN-BC, BSN, UCSF Medical Center

"These concise first-person narratives by nurses from around the world provide a magnificent testimony to the power of the nursing profession to effect change. Their common theme is to stand up, speak out, and take action against inadequate care, unsafe working conditions, physician arrogance, and outmoded, condescending conceptions of the nurse's role in contemporary health care. These are the voices of nurses who do not know their places—to the benefit of patients, and of us all."—Charles L. Bardes, MD, Weill Cornell Medical College

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Suzanne Gordon is coeditor of the Cornell University Press series, The Culture and Politics of Health Care Work, and was program leader of the Robert Wood Johnson-funded Nurse Manager in Action Program.

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Table of Contents


Part 1: Set Up to Lose, but Playing to Win
A Covert Operation - Kathleen Bartholomew
Saving Patients from Dr. Death - Toni Hoffman
A Lesson for the Principal - Kathy Hubka
The Delicate Discharge - Ruth Johnson
No Patience for Poison - Brenda Carle
Mr. CEO, Will You Marry Me? - Candice Owley
Intolerable Behavior - Eleanor Geldard
One Is One Too Many - Thomas Smith
A Comfortable Cover Up - Jenny Kendall
Stacking the Cards in Our Favor - Ro Licata

Part 2: We Don't Have to Eat Our Young
Mentor Unto Others… - Clola Robinson-Blake
A Dose of Diplomacy - Donna Schroeder
Standing Up for What You Don't Know - Judy Schaefer
Broken Bones and Ice Cream - Edie Brous
Treating Transition Shock - Judy Boychuk Duchscher
The Empty-Hands Round - Amaia Sáenz de Ormijana

Part 3: Excuse Me, Doctor, You're Wrong
Eye/I Advocacy - Jane Black
As If the Patient Can Hear You - Clarke Doty
Don’t Just Add Nurses and Stir - Janet Rankin
Gloves Off - Nancy Marie Valentine
The Overlooked Symptom - Jo Stecher
Hope in the Midst of Tragedy - Connie Barden
The Advantages of Age - Marion Phipps
An Expiration Date for Indignancy - Madeline Spiers
What Hospice Is For - Jean Chaisson
A Real Pain - Paola Scamperle

Part 4: Not Part of the Job Description
I'll Call in Sick If I Have To - Barbara Egger
Doing the Heavy Lifting - Martha Baker
Attacked by a Patient, Abandoned by My Hospital - Charlene L. Richardson
The Samurai Sword - Anne Duffy
Only When It's Safe - Bernie Gerard
The Red Shirts Are Coming - Mary Crabtree Tonges
Not Saints or Sisters - Belinda Morieson

Part 5 When One Advocate Can Make a Difference
Putting Lymphedema on the Map - Saskia R. J. Thiadens
An Inconvenient Nurse - Faith Henson
A Safe Delivery from Domestic Abuse - Kristin Stevens
To Do the Unthinkable - Barry L. Adams
The Only Nurse for Miles Around - Dagbjört Bjarnadóttir
More Than Boo-boos and Band-Aids - Judy Stewart
First Responders in the AIDS Epidemic - Richard S. Ferri

Part 6: Choking on Sugar and Spice: Challenging Nurses' Public Image
Silenced during the SARS Epidemic - Doris Grinspun
In the Halls of Academe - Claire M. Fagin
R-E-S-P-E-C-T - Lisa Fitzpatrick
Real Nurses Don't Wear Wings - Victoria L. Rich
The Lady with a Loud Voice - Jeanne Byner
Taking on the Terminator - Vicki Bermudez
Defending the Nursing Profession over Dinner - Elizabeth Kozub
Remaking the Power Nurse - Pierre-Andre Wagner
Health Policy from Nurses' Point of View - Yuko Kanamori
Maybe We Should Be Bragging - Guðrún Aðalsteinsdóttir
Finessing the Chairman of the Board - Carol Blount
Called to Duty at 30,000 Feet - Ann Converso

Part 7: Applied Research
Nurse PI on a Clinical Trial - Kathleen Dracup
The Need for Nurse Evaluators - Teresa Moreno-Casbas
Research and Nursing-Home Reform - Charlene Harrington
How Nurses Make It Work - Kathryn Lothschuetz Montgomery
Teamwork through Research - Lena Sharp
Keep Asking Questions - Sean Clarke
No More Martyrs - fane Lipscomb
Taking On Conventional Wisdom - Thóra B. Hafsteinsdóttir

Part 8: Sticking Together
Winning Recognition of Nursing Expertise - Edie Brous
A Union Just for Nurses - Massimo Ribetto
We Rained on Their Parade - Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez
Protesting on the Red Carpet - Kelly DiGiacomo
Saving the Carney - Penny Connolly

Part 9: Still Fighting
The Male Midwife - Gregg Trueman
Fighting for Our Vets - Edmond O'Leary
We Are the Experts - Karen Higgins
A Collective Voice - Diane Sosne
We Will Not Be Silenced - Carol Youngson
Standing By One Patient - Faith Simon

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